Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Indianapolis Business Journal. December 2, 2022.

Editorial: Legislation protects religious groups, same-sex couples

Kudos to U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., for his vote this week to ensure that same-sex marriage is enshrined in federal law and not left to the whim of the courts.

Frankly, same-sex marriage doesn’t seem like the kind of thing we need to be talking about seven years after the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize the unions.

After all, more than 60% of Americans in a new Pew Research poll said that same-sex marriage is good for society.

Still, questions about marriage equality are in the news again following the Supreme Court’s decision this year to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has had LGBTQ people—and many others—concerned the high court could do an about-face on same-sex marriage, as well.

Justice Clarence Thomas stoked those fears in his concurring opinion in the abortion case, writing that the Supreme Court could revisit cases about marriage, contraception and other issues.

That’s why we were pleased to see Congress take up legislation that aims to secure marriage rights for those in same-sex relationships. On Tuesday, the Senate approved the bill 61-36, including support from 12 Republicans. Young was one of them. Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, a Republican who is planning to run for governor, voted no.

Young explained his reasons for his vote in an op-ed column posted at IndyStar.com, and we appreciate his thoughtful consideration of the legislation as well as those who support and oppose it.

Notably, Young argues the legislation balances the views of those who believe marriage “was created by God as a sacred union between one man and one woman” and those same-sex couples who want “to enjoy the same legal protections of civil marriage as married men and women.”

The legislation, he said, “will bring the United States government closer to treating both groups with dignity and respect than we ever have in our history.”

The legislation would not force any state to allow same-sex couples to marry. But it would require states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed and protect current same-sex unions if the Supreme Court were to overturn the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the AP reports.

But the bill also explicitly says that religious organizations will not be required to provide services, goods, privileges or otherwise to same-sex couples. It also says that the law can’t be construed “to abrogate a religious liberty or conscience protection otherwise available to an individual or organization under the Constitution of the United States or federal law.”

“I think Christians should not be fearful of this legislation,” Young wrote. “In fact, the explicit protections in this proposal offer far more in the way of religious liberty protections than currently under Obergefell, which leaves all such decisions up to the courts.”

We agree with Young’s reasoning, as well his vote for the legislation. We urge the U.S. House and President Biden to move the bill into law.

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Jeffersonville News and Tribune. December 3, 2022.

Editorial: Tech has changed workforce needs, and Indiana must adapt

In report after report, researchers have reached the same conclusion: Digital technology will soon dominate the market, and Indiana’s workforce is ill-prepared for the seismic shift.

The latest reminder of this troubling forecast came from the state’s own study, released in November by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. That panel’s findings reinforce those detailed in similar reports including one produced by the Brookings Institution.

The bottom line is that many employers already demand distinguished digital skills from their workers, and that trend will only grow stronger. The state report suggests factors including the pandemic and a tight labor market have pushed many employers to speed up automation.

Advanced technology requires skilled workers, and researchers worry that Indiana could be left in the “digital dust” without a major overhaul of educational priorities and training.

To meet the demand, high schools and colleges should prioritize instruction in fields such as computer science, math, technology and engineering, researchers propose.

Similar to how the Legislature addressed shortfalls in nursing during its last session, lawmakers must find ways to incentivize Hoosier high schools and colleges to offer more dual credits and enhanced training for in-demand occupations. With Indiana being fortunate enough to have budget surpluses, investing more in training the workforce would be a wise move.

Employers should also be a part of the process. By partnering with colleges, high schools and workforce training organizations, employers can help fund the instruction of the employees they need to sustain their businesses.

Workers and students must also recognize the shift in the landscape. It behooves a worker to attain high-skilled accreditation and training for technology-related jobs. Those who obtain such skills will be attractive to employers and will earn more money.

And while the Legislature should act to foster tech-centric training and digital proficiency, there are already programs available for Hoosiers. Many of them are free. Workforce organizations across the state offer coding programs, teaching students front-end web development in a matter of weeks.

We also must eliminate the stigma between technical and skills training and academics. They are both necessary for a viable workforce.

STEM and digital learning doesn’t necessarily boost critical thinking, but proficiency in reading, writing and arithmetic may not be the most crucial need for future workers.

We need our educators and workforce developers to meet in the middle to promote a wide scope of training and instruction.

Indiana has positioned itself as a manufacturing hub, but to maintain that status, decision-makers, workers and students must accept that tech skills are vital.

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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. December 2, 2022.

Editorial: An excellent idea in how to deal with predatory landlords

Indiana’s General Assembly will come together for an extended session in little more than a month. And an Indianapolis senator wants to hold faulty landlords to account by allowing renters to steer rent payments to escrow until an owner finishes critical repairs.

Indiana is known for its landlord-friendly legislation, and it is no surprise we’re just one of five states without laws on rent escrow. Indeed, according to an Indianapolis Star report from earlier this year, Indiana doesn’t allow tenants to pay for repairs themselves and deduct the cost of repairs from the next rent payment.

A tenant can sue a lousy landlord, but we’re not generally talking about upscale places owned by unscrupulous proprietors. Instead, we’re talking about people for whom rent is a significant portion of their income and lawyering up to fight a landholder is a fleeting thought.

Rather than support landlord negligence, state Sen. Fady Qaddoura, D-Indianapolis, is taking his case to the legislature a year after he attempted a similar bill in the last session.

“Legislators in other states have found rent escrow to be a bipartisan option that only impacts bad-actor landlords, so I would hope the supermajority would come to that same conclusion,” Qaddoura told The Journal Gazette on Thursday, adding that 90% of tenants lack a legal defense in court when suing a landlord.

“(So) this would impact any renter that is put into a situation where they feel that legal recourse is their only option,” Qaddoura said.

An analysis of the Notre Dame University-based Student Policy Network outlined the problems Hoosier tenants face under existing laws. Health impacts from landlord negligence include lead exposure, infectious diseases due to inefficient waste disposal, absence of hot water and presence of rodents and other disease vectors. Poor ventilation, mold, and pest infestation are linked to respiratory challenges and illnesses.

Time and again, it has been demonstrated that the health impacts of the poor and working-class Hoosiers have long-term financial and productivity consequences for us all.

The pandemic-enforced eviction moratorium kept people from being turned out during a national emergency; those safeguards are gone. Data from Princeton University’s Eviction Lab tracker shows that Indiana’s eviction filings have been trending steadily higher since mid-April 2021. Allen County filings since early October are 3% over the annual average.

Just Neighbors’ Interfaith Homeless Network’s Shirley Rork said she had seen some horrific property-owner malfeasance. As the organization’s director of eviction intervention, she told The Journal Gazette that creating better tenant-landlord mediation is long overdue. The renters she works with don’t know their options.

“We had a family who had the ceiling fall in their apartment. They had pictures and proof and were kicked out because they didn’t pay rent,” said Rork. “And they wanted to pay it! But they wanted to live in a safe place.”

And why shouldn’t renters expect to live safely in a rental property if they hold up their end of an agreement?

Qaddoura and tenant-rights advocates have no fight with all landlords, just those bad actors who’ve greedily gamed the system. A strong tenant-landlord relationship is ideal for both parties and the communities they inhabit. Let’s hope many Hoosier state legislators see it that way.

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